In Eastern RPGs
, there is usually one spell or a set of spells available late in the game that make every other attack and technique in the game pale by comparison.
After all the tweaking of weapons, stats and armor, magic almost never hits as quickly, consistently, or powerfully as it would if you just run up and hit something with your basic attack. Although healing spells are always useful, Summon Magic
tends to be the only offensive magic that'll hit a bunch of enemies for great damage late in the game. This is usually because, while physical attacks improve substantially with new equipment, only gaining new spells will make magic function better. This is especially true for status-affecting spells, which the enemies in the last quarter of the game or so are almost always immune against.
So, to give the magic wielder something to do in the end-game, there's this trope. There is often an "Ultimate
" spell which is hard to find or learn, and which blows all previous spells of its type out of the water. If it has any others of its type to begin with.
These will frequently become a Disc One Nuke
if you can somehow
get it early in the game or keep the spell when you start a New Game+
Contrast with Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
. May be related to Eleventh Hour Superpower
- Blizzard had this problem with World of Warcraft at launch: at the time, once you hit 60, the only way to progress was to get gear with better stats. Attack gear could just have higher damage output, but the only thing a caster could do is increase their critical strike percentage by increasing their Intellect. As a result, Blizzard added a new stat: "Increases damage and healing done by magical spells and effects by up to X"
- The problem still exists in a way in the arena PvP, as melee classes scale better with the gear (a good weapon is enough to substantially increase their damage), and most powerful spells have a cast time, which is a major disadvantage in PvP.
- In Cataclysm, Intellect finally affects spell power as well as providing the old mana pool/spell crit bonuses.
- Warhammer Online tends to avert this trope, as the primary magic damage stat provides enough damage boosts to keep it roughly level with melee damage. Because the spells differ in terms of effect, range, cooldown and cost rather than just straight out being better than something else, even the basic spells learned in the first few levels are still used consistently in the endgame, although specialized "bonus" abilities from path mastery do tend to be of higher quality (as they should, being pretty exclusive and only available by spending mastery points). There are a few exceptions, but almost all of the starting abilities granted at level 1 are still used just as much at level 40.
- Defense Of The Ancients. Mage-types are called early-game characters because their spells can make a mess of most other characters with their poor "naked" stats. Once a game goes on for long enough though, well-equipped DPS heroes with enough health to soak the poorly-scaling spell damage can pump out enough damage to bring down the previously troublesome casters. Of course, there were "ultimate" spells that stood head and shoulders above the normal ones, but even those start to lose effectiveness after a while.
- This only applys to flat Damage abilities such as Lina or Lion's ultimates, Abilities such as Enigma's Black Hole, Magnus's Reverse Polarity, Omniknight's Guardian Angel, Beastmaster's Primal Roar and others work all the way to endgame, as they either deal in multiplicative buffs, or flat stunning crowd control.
- The mechanic above for Defense Of The Ancients is less extreme in League of Legends, where casters scale with Ability Power and Cooldown Reduction, though the same concept still applies as the damage scaling of autoattacks is multiplicative and will outstrip the damage-per-second potential of casters quite handily at some point. They also lack Dota's game-changing Ultimates, For example, Malphite's Unstoppable Force stuns for 1.5s, while Dota's Magnus has Reverse Polarity, which stuns for 3.75s, and fights last longer.
- Lost Magic gives you the mystical trio runes, just in time for the showdown with the Big Bad (if you took the right Sadistic Choice, that is.) In a New Game+, they become a splendid Disc One Nuke.
- In Dark Souls, The "Crystal" versions of existing sorceries are only available in the last third of the game after meeting the requirement of unlocking the teacher in The Duke's Archives. Crystal Soul Spear has the highest base damage of all single target sorcery magic, Homing Crystal Soulmass deals large burst damage if all the soulmasses connect, and Crystal Magic weapon is the strongest of the sorcery weapon buffs.
- In Dark Souls II, the most powerful damaging sorcery, Soul Geyser, can only be found near the end of the game in Aldias Keep after acquiring the King's Ring.
- In Golden Sun, the final elemental summons are by far the most powerful moves, although they take a long while to recharge.
- The whole idea of physical attacks beating spells is kind of averted in that game too.Moves like Heatwave and Ragnarok actually do more damage if you equip a good weapon and certain clothing increases elemental power.
- Indeed. These Elemental Physical Attacks (EPA) were based both on elemental power and your attack stat and were more "skills" than "magic." All unleashes (both from weapons and Djinn) are EPA.
- Megiddo begs to differ.
- As pointed out by the above, while EPAs may have been decent in the first game, in the second game you'll get far more mileage out of your physical attacks after about halfway through the game. Doesn't help that it's so easy to get gamebreaking equipment in the second game if you know what you're doing.
- To clarify: The second game has equipment capable of randomly casting a top-tier spell for free. The first game had a few examples but they were more prevalent towards the end of the second game.
- Tales of Symphonia gave every character (including certain bosses) "Hi-Ougis" or "secret techniques" that could only be accessed towards the end of the game. Well, everybody in the Japan only PS2 version at least. Only Lloyd, Collette and Genis have them in the base game.
- The Final Fantasy series, depending on the game chosen, has Flare, Meteor/Meteo, Holy/Pearl, or the rather impressive Ultima. Often they have all of the above. There is a recurring top-end magic that puts them all to shame, called Grand Cross, but this magic has never yet been available to the heroes.
- Final Fantasy V avoids this to some extent. One of the classes, Mystic Knight, has an ability called Spellblade that infuses the user's weapon with a black magic spell (as long as you've bought it), meaning that it's much easier to hit enemies with spells.
- It plays it straight with Blue Magic, since some mooks that carry the ultra-spells don't show up until world 3. Though some of the most powerful blue magic like Death Claw and Level 5 Death is in turn a Disc One Nuke.
- Final Fantasy VII has several examples of this, notably the Knights of the Round materia. With the Knights' materia, and a couple other materia combos (W-Summon, Final Attack, etc.) it's possible to throw any enemy (including both bonus bosses) into an endless loop of Knights of the Round until your opponents are dead.
- Final Fantasy VIII uses this trope literally with the Apocalypse spell, only obtainable by drawing it out of the final form of Ultimecia's body. If you hack it into your inventory in a new game, you'll find that it's quite the Game Breaker, attack and stat-wise.
- Even the summon magic in Final Fantasy Tactics took so long to cast as to be useless. Your only real use late-game magic got is the Calculator, which could cast spells like Holy instantly (certain restrictions apply).
- As the above suggests, these restrictions can be turned into a positive, as it is relatively easy to get a Calculator to cast Holy on all combatants (Ally and Enemy) instantly and for no MP. The trick is to give your characters the ability to negate or absorb Holy damage, causing all enemies to take massive damage (Usually enough to kill), and your party to be healed to full.
- Final Fantasy XII has the Scathe and Ardor spells for the Black Magic school, and Holy for the White Magic school.
- 4 Heroes of Light has the ultimate white magic Lux, which places several status buffs simultaneously, and the ultimate black magic Desolator, a version of the traditional meteor spell that gets around six hits that are each as powerful as a regular spell. Unlike all other spells in this game, you can only acquire one copy of each.
- Somewhat averted in Final Fantasy Tactics A2. Depending on the target, magic or physical attacks might be more effective (against monsters it's usually magic thanks to elemental weaknesses), and since MP always start outs at 0, the Last Disc Magic aren't the higher tier spells themselves, but skills and passive abilities that decrease MP cost or speed up MP recovery.
- Averted in a way in Final Fantasy II where magic can actually be better than a physical attack, not only at the start of the game, but increasingly so as long as you keep using it. It's actually easier to buy Fire or Thunder and Cure before completing your first quest and grinding it to level two or three than it is to try making use of the Ultima spell (which has damage based on the levels of all your other spells). Until you get the Ultima spell (and maybe after if it's all you use), you can do total party kills with your one spell.
- Final Fantasy X: Doublecast and Ultima definitely apply; they lie behind several high level lock-spheres, so they'll most likely only be unlocked just before the Point of No Return (if at all). For the record, the former allows the user to cast two Black Magic spells in one turn, and the latter deals non-elemental magic damage (even higher than that of Lulu's final spell - Flare) on all enemies on the field.
- Flare might also count, as it's acquired about 2/3 of the way through the game, and as soon as it's unlocked, most enemies suddenly become resistant to elemental magic (or all magic in general). This coupled with the spell's impressive base damage renders all of the other attack spells obsolete.
- Holy is available near the end of the White Mage progression, no enemies resist it, and it's able to do quite substantial damage.
- Even if you ignore the Mystic Weapons that all the bosses are weak against, SaGa 3 (aka Final Fantasy Legend III) eventually reaches the point where magic is useless... except the Flare spell, which you can only get two of, and only if you're careful not to waste the ingredients on other, more-or-less useless spells.
- Phantasy Star IV gives the player the option to tidy up the last of Chaz's character development by visiting a secret dungeon and confronting the secret boss who lives there. Successfully doing so rewards the player with the Forbidden Technique, Megid, which is a horrible incendiary spell that fills the screen with fiery death. It's one of the components for the most destructive combination attack in the game, and is fueled entirely by the wielder's anger.
- The Melt Crest in Shadow Hearts: Covenant and From the New World. Non-elemental, hits quite hard, and causes Bind status (which has no "cure" except waiting for next turn). Usually only available near the very end and completing the game(s) longest sidequest (Solomon's Key in Covenant, and Lovecraft's Stellar Chart Problem in New World). Has a high MP cost but can be carried over to New Game+ should you acquire it.
- In Star Ocean: The Second Story, the two Attack Mages of the game, Leon and Celine, get their respective ultimate spells, Extinction and Meteor Swarm, in the Bonus Dungeon, which is only accessible right before the final boss.
- That said, in Celine's case, Meteor Swarm isn't that ultimate, as the added damage isn't significant enough to make it more useful than Southern Cross (her second most powerful spell), because of the awfully long animation (remember that, in this game, when a spell is launched, the battle's action is completely suspended until the spell is completed).
- In the Pokémon games starting with FireRed and LeafGreen, there's a move tutor that will teach Water, Grass, or Fire-typed versions of Hyper Beam, but only to the fully-evolved version of your starter Mon. The last move a Pokémon learns through level-up generally also falls under this, as the level needed to learn it often isn't reached until you're facing the final Gym Leader or the Elite Four, and these moves are often very powerful.
- In Gen IV, those moves aren't just restricted to only the starters from that game, either: any starter trio can learn them. The happiness level for those Pokémon also had to be maxed out. Similarly, in Gen IV, a special move tutor will teach any Dragon-type Pokémon with max happiness (fully evolved or not), including Arceus with a Dragon Plate, a special Dragon-type variation of Overheat in Diamond and Pearl.
- A lot of TMs also show up very late in the game (like after beating the Champion), like Energy Ball or Psychic.
- Arcana in The Last Remnant is orders of magnitude more powerful than any other type of magic, and hits every enemy of the battlefield. It is possible to unlock weaker arcana by accident, but unlocking the most powerful aracana requires a lot of training; you first need a character with the rarest type of mystic arts, then you need to train those arts extensively. You then need to place the character in a union with multiple other magic users, and fight until the chance arrives to have all of them use mystic arts at the same time. Time-consuming, but worth it when you destroy an army of over 30 units with a single devastating spell.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
- Averted by Destruction magic. Damage from Destruction spells doesn't scale with level, meaning that beyond a certain point it Can't Catch Up to archery or swordplay. In addition, the Master level spells take up both hands and have an insanely long casting time during which the caster can easily be interrupted by taking a hit, so even dedicated mages will use lower-level spells as their bread and butter.
- Played straight, on the other hand, with Shouts. Completing the main quest gives the player several powerful Shouts, such as the ability to conjure a thunderstorm which strikes everything in a wide radius with lightning or summon a dragon or powerful ghost hero to fight for you.
- Persona 3 has Messiah, the ultimate form of the Judgement Arcana, and one of the last Personae you get. It's about as strong as you'd expect.
- Persona 3 also has the "severe damage" forms of the elemental spells, only available from high-level personae that mostly require you to finish a social link to unlock. All except the fire spell are single-target only, but by that point you should have the SP to spend quite comfortably.
- Persona 4: Golden gives last disc magic to your entire party. If you max out their Social Links, you can visit them after defeating Adachi to unlock their Tier 3 Persona. This unlocks a unique, character specific skill for each party member. Chie gets a party-wide Heat Riser, Naoto can null all damage for a turn, Yukiko gets the most powerful fire spell in the game, and even Rise gets new support skills.
- Last Disc Magic is enforced in Persona 4 with the final few bosses, particularly on New Game+. Most of the final bosses and minibosses have such ridiculous reserves of health that to even dent them you can't use any spell below -dyne grade. Also with skills like Spell Master and gear like the Chakra Robe (both halve the SP cost for all magic skills) and Rudra Robe (the same for physical skills) make it very easy and viable to merely spam spells like Megidolaon (the 'you all now die' button, but can cost up to a quarter of your SP if you are low-levelled) and Agneyastra.
- The original Persona also has this with the Ultimate Personae (Messiah and the Tier 3 Personae are examples of Ultimate Personae). However, only a few are actually at the standard of Last Disc Magic. Ra is decent and has BossDamage/Hieroglyphein, Valzante is OK, and Alfred has some brilliant skills and is generally an Ensemble Darkhorse. However, Mondo is dreadful unless you use him for defense, and Demo is physical (like Mark's original Persona) in a game where physical is awful because of grid-based battle systems. However, if you deviated from canon and took someone else, you could get Darkside, who had a Game Breaker spell, or St. Michael, who had incredibly powerful skills and was immune to almost everything.
- And finally, Persona 2 offers the fusion spell Armageddon, which you can only cast if you have two party members using Satan and Lucifer. Satan and Lucifer are very high level personae (Lucifer is level 99) in a game where there aren't really any enemies past level 70. Obviously, a lot of Level Grinding is required to get them. But Armageddon will instantly kill any enemy including the final boss - both forms. The only exception is the Bonus Boss, who can counter it and instantly kill you.
- In MOTHER 3 Kumatora learns PK ground at level 60. It hits the enemy for 5% of it's maximum hp five times. That's 25% of the enemy's hp, it can't be blocked by shields, and bosses aren't immune to it. The only downside to it is that unless you do a ton of grinding, you'll only get to use it on the second to last boss since you can't use Kumatora against the final boss. Additionally, Kumatora and Lucas learn PK Starstorm and PK Love Omega at the very end of Chapter 7, respectively. These are the two strongest PSI attacks in the game, but there's not much left of the game by the time you obtain them.
- In EarthboundZero Ana (the only member of the party who can use offensive PSI) will finally learn the high-level attacks that the enemies have been using against you since almost the beginning of the game: PK Freeze Gamma, PK Beam Gamma, and, even later, PK Fire Omega by the time you reach Mount Itoi. You'll need them.
- In Earthbound, Poo is taught PK Starstorm Omega right before the final dungeon. Chances are, you're not actually gonna use it.
- Every final Bros Attack in the Mario & Luigi series is this. For instance, in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, you eventually get the Zee Egg and Star Rocket attacks (via finding all Pi'illos and collecting attack pieces in the final dungeon respectively). These attacks are incredibly easy to line up for maximum damage, do about four times the damage anything else does and are incredibly cool looking to boot. Both are pretty well needed given that your older bros attacks lose a lot of effectiveness by that point.
- Completely averted in Evil Islands. The best offensive magic is not acid, the Suslanger magic, but lightning, which is already available in Ingos, and there's even a way to craft a Lightning spell in Gipath, although it will be very expensive. Concerning non-offensive magic, the high price, required skill and stamina cost and the low duration of Suslanger's spells makes most of them useless, while the game's most useful spells are already available in the previous islands. To drive the point home, The Curse uses lightning in its attacks.
- Averted in the Disgaea series of tactical RPGs, where magic not only scales well with physical attacks, but has massive range and convenient areas of effect, to the extent that extremely high-level parties need never walk more than a few squares away from their starting location to kill everything on the map. Additionally, spells improved in power and range when used frequently, so even the starting spells are useful late in the game.
- In stark contrast to the previous Nippon Ichi game, La Pucelle, which may be the most fighter-centric SRPG ever. The fighters could regenerate their own HP if their HP stat was ground high enough and had special abilities that let them hit large groups of enemies. And the later storyline PCs didn't get Leaked Experience, so it became a matter of everyone buffs the main character and gets the hell out of her way while she clears the board (they were also good decoys!).
- Vandal Hearts averts the trope in that magic-users are just as powerful offensively as melee as long as they're the same level and using the latest powers - in fact, as a lot of later magic spells have Area of Effect, they can be more powerful than the single-target melee users and consequently level faster. However, played straight in that new spells are only given at certain level waypoints and spells don't scale to the user - so if you're just below the level to get the 7-square-radius Phase Shift, you'll be doing the damage of someone several levels below you whilst melee troops will hit exactly according to their level. This also means that as you get a more powerful (or beneficial) spell, the old ones are never used again - after all, why spend 3mp (out of 40+) on a single target heal for 30hp, when you can heal them and everyone within two spaces of them for 100+hp each for 5mp?
- Fire Emblem's commonly powerful magic which can be obtained near, or in, the Endgame - Athos comes with Forblaze in Fire Emblem 7, it's possible to steal the ultimate Light spell (although only Rhys can use it) during Fire Emblem 9; in addition to getting the assorted other ultimate magic in the chapters just before the Endgame. In Radiant Dawn, you get the ultimate magic forced into your hands during Part Four and on the second playthrough, you can get two characters who can use the ultimate Dark magic, one of whom comes with the ultimate staff in the game - but this is only during the final section of endgame, so he's not as useful as he could have been.
- In the first game in the series and its remakes, the powerful Starlight tome requires jumping through some hoops to obtain but is one of the most powerful magic tome in the game, has a critical hit stat and is require to defeat The Dragon.
- The Radiant Dawn variants are deceptive though- while all five are given to you for free (Rexflame (Fire), Rexbolt (Thunder), and Rexcaliber (Wind) are given to you in pre-battle talks, Rexaura (Light) and Balberith (Dark) are dropped by Bosses- all 5 of them require SS weapon skill, which is a royal pain in the arse to get to with the SquishyWizards who use the tomes and unless you're a hardcore magic user it's likely the characters who can use the tomes won't have reached this level until the Endgame. This is compensate for by the ability to buy a large amount of Arms Scrolls.
- Genealogy of the Holy War featured the ridiculously powerful Naga tome, which had 30 Might and gave +20 to almost every stat, which Julia gets just before the Final Boss. As an aversion, though, the Forseti tome is available as early as chapter 4, and is very much a Game Breaker in its own right.
- The sixth game also had fun with this, as the legendary weapons are received in Gaiden chapters interspersed throughout the game. You get the best sword (except for the Roy-exclusive Sword of Plot Advancement) about a third of the way through the game and the best axe about halfway through—the top anima magic comes shortly thereafter. The top dark magic, however, which has the highest overall power and the ability to boost said power even moreso (though its usefulness is kept in check by its high weight), is found just before the chapter in which the Big Bad is fought.
- However...the ultimate weapons all have a low number of uses, and the true ending cannot be reached unless all of the ultimate weapons have been obtained and still have uses remaining when you finish off the Big Bad, so actually using any of them before you have all of them is ill-advised.
- Fire Emblem in general, while having powerful magic spells in each game, typically avert the spellcaster's uselessness in comparison to the physical weapon users, usually being just as useful as them. While more powerful magic is often gotten late in the game, most enemies have low Resistance (even magic units typically don't have as much Res as physical units have Defense), allowing them to be your one source for constant damage throughout the game, whereas most physical weapon users have to contend with the weapon triangle. To compensate for this, physical weapon users get more weapons with special effects, while special effects magic is quite rare and is usually reserved for dark magic users, or for legendary magic tomes.
- In Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Level 3 Force Grip and Force Lightning are gained quite late on. Level 3 Saber Throw takes the cake, giving you only a single level to get any real use out of it, and even then, most of the enemies wield lightsabers of their own to deflect it. Jedi Academy is far more generous on that front: Saber Throw, as one of the "neutral" powers that levels up at set intervals, gives you no less than six levels to play with it (most of them filled with Stormtroopers and other such enemies that are very susceptible to it), and the choose-your-powers approach for everything else turns Grip and Lightning into potential Disc One Nukes.